To the editor:
The 3/19 article "Eating Organically" subtitled "Organic Food helps people cut down on chemical intake" reveals a mindset that has more to do with commercial advocacy than science. The entire field of organic chemistry was once concerned with the study of chemicals from living systems.
Thus green plants gave chlorophyll, carrots carotene, butyl mercaptan from skunk glands, amyl acetate from bananas, vanillin from vanilla beans, spermidine from guess where, and so on. At a time when chemists did not know how to make any of these chemicals, it was recognized that each living cell was a miniature chemical factory, even if only a few of these chemicals were characterized.
An English language paper in China recently had a long article citing American sources that showed pesticide residues in organic and non-organic foods were equally high, due to plants making natural pesticides, some of which cause cancer in laboratory animals.
Another story last week on Chinese TV concerned a pig farmer whose neighbors complained about the smell. To solve the problem he made arrangements to truck the pig excrement to local rice paddies and sold the rice as organic.